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Full text of "Art values in a changing society."

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ART VALUES IN A CHANGING SOCIET 




Toledo's Museum: a popular cultural center 



ART VALUES 
IN A CHANGING SOCIETY 



Revised from an address, 

A Museum Director's View 

of the Art Market 

by Otto Wittmann before the 

London Financial Times Conference 

New York, October 18, 1974 



THE TOLEDO MUSEUM OF ART 



Note 

"Perhaps the single most valuable piece 
of information to he gleaned from the two- 
day session was Otto Wittmann's "Ten Rules 
for Successful Collecting." They apply to 
amateurs and professionals alike." 

Barron's, October 28, 1974 



Mr. VVittmann was invited by London's 
Financial Times to speak at a conference on 
the world art and antique markets. As the 
conference included many aspects of finance 
and the arts and was presented before an 
audience of international economists, bank- 
ers, art collectors and dealers, Mr. Wittmann 
was specifically asked to speak on his 
own experiences in collecting for Toledo's 
Museum. 



Cover: Room from the 
Chateau de Chenailles, 

French, mid-17 th century. 

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. 
Marvin S. Kobacker 



© Copyright, The Toledo Museum of Art, 1974 



Preface 

The Toledo Museum of Art is perhaps best 
known locally and nationally as a great 
teaching museum. Almost since the day of 
its founding in 1901 the Museum pioneered 
in offering innovative art education pro- 
grams for children and adults. Today it still 
offers the country's most extensive program 
in art education for children and also pro- 
vides a full curriculum in art and art history 
for thousands of university students and 
adults. 

However its international standing and 
acclaim as one of the nation's ten finest mu- 
seums of art is based on the very high stand- 
ards of its significant collections of art. 
Toledo's collections have more than doubled 
in the past 25 years, have broadened in scope 
and depth. Mr. Wittmann's talk recounts 
this growth, the reasons behind the direc- 
tions it has taken, and the basis for the high 
standards established for this Museum. 

Giving plays a significant part in the 
growth of any American museum. Without 
the generous funds bequeathed especially 
for the acquisition of art by the Museum's 
founder Edward Drummond Libbey and his 
wife, as well as more recently contributed 
funds from other generous donors, the 
growth recorded in these pages would not 
have been possible. Unless otherwise indi- 
cated the art illustrated was acquired with 
funds bequeathed by Edward Drummond 
Libbey. The Libbey funds as well as other 
generous contributions will make possible 
continuing future growth of the Museum's 
collections of art. 






■ 



Michel Anguier . . . acquired 1973 



Our affluent society . . . 

has developed a mania for art 

collecting which rivals the 

tulip speculations of 17th 

century Europe. 



ART VALUES 
IN A CHANGING SOCIETY 



W. 



ithin the last few years the collect- 
ing of art, which has existed in varying de- 
grees of intensity since the beginning of 
time, has gained new popular appeal. One 
might say that this pastime of royalty, of 
nobility or at least of the wealthy, has been 
democratized at last. Almost every young 
couple today aspires to an apartment or 
house not only furnished with attractive 
furniture, but also with a Picasso print or 
so — or they covet a few original works of 
art along with that second automobile. 

Our affluent society (yes, more of us are 
still relatively better off now than at any 
other time in history) has developed a ma- 
nia for art collecting which rivals the tulip 
speculations of 17th century Europe. 

Our popular press reflects this. The widely 
syndicated economist Sylvia Porter, re- 
cently headlined an article, "Art Market 
Presents Investor Opportunity". She de- 
scribed in her article a set of Picasso lino- 
leum block prints which jumped from $600 
to $50,000 in a decade or so; and Rembrandt 
etchings which doubled in price in ten years. 



Art is by no means merely a 
commodity. Increasing investment 
value should not be the 
reason for collecting art. 



Financial World a year or so ago head- 
lined an article, "Art As Investment Out- 
paces Stock", and London's Financial Times 
in 1973 headlined a survey of art auction 
prices, "Fine Art Fetches Even Bigger 
Money." That always interesting Swiss 
money expert Dr. Franz Pick has for some 
years reported on values of art (always ris- 
ing) along with gold in an inflationary 
money market. Only recently (May 1974) 
did Fortune magazine strike a more sour 
note with this headline, "Invest in the Art 
Market? Soy Beans Might be Safer". 

Many others more qualified than I have 
written on investment opportunities in art 
— a subject with which I am not even in 
great sympathy, for to me art is by no means 
merely a commodity. Increasing investment 
value should not be the reason for collecting 
art. Far from it — for the market for art can 
and does fluctuate. You may lose as well as 
win in a monetary sense. The art market is 
simply a market of slow swelling waves in- 
stead of the choppy seas of the equity or 
commodity markets. 

The reasons for collecting art should be 
different from investing in other assets; cer- 
tainly investment for profit (should it oc- 
cur) should be of only peripheral interest — 
at least to museums. As one museum trustee 
recently remarked after listening to a report 
of his museum's art acquisitions, "But how 
do we know if our collecting is successful — 
we never sell anything!" He had missed the 
point it seems to me — although his mu- 
seum's policy of not selling art, which is its 
prime asset and reason for being is to be 
commended. 



The opportunity to speak on A Museum 
Director's View of the Art Market was pre- 
sumably given to me because of the unusual 
and fortunate circumstances which made it 
possible for me to collect more extensively 
and in more markets for my museum over 
the past quarter-century than many of my 
museum colleagues. 

While Toledo has had generous donors of 
funds to be used only for art acquisitions, 
we have had few collectors and therefore 
relatively few gifts of works of art. It has 
been left therefore to the museum director 
and his professional staff to form Toledo's 
collections. I have considered this my main 
task and most serious responsibility during 
my years at Toledo. In order to preface my 
remarks you should know briefly how this 
occurred. 

After more than five year's service in our 
armed forces during World War II, I was 
toward the end of the war attached to a 
small counter-intelligence unit of the OSS. 
Our small unit was concerned with a strange 
aspect of art as investment: that is, the pre- 
dilection of certain foreign intelligence 
agents to be paid in art as a variant to other 
stable assets such as Swiss francs. Not a 
great deal ever came of this, as most agents 
were too mobile to prefer art — but our in- 
vestigations did lead to a series of reports 
on the wartime movement of art which was 
most helpful in identifying works of art dis- 
placed as the loot of war. 

Of course many colleagues in the art 
world from our country as well as from 
various European countries worked to- 
gether on the restitution of art after 1945 



and many good friends who were to be of 
great help to me in the years ahead were 
first met at that time. Indeed without the 
guidance, good advice, and warm friendship 
of my colleagues in the museums of Europe 
and America, many of whom I first met in 
those days of art restitution, I could have 
accomplished very little. I am grateful to 
many museum directors and curators who 
have always been generous with their ad- 
vice and guidance; and I would advise any 
aspiring collector to develop close ties with 
his local museum's professional staff. 

In 1946 when my wartime service was 
finally completed, I joined The Toledo 
Museum of Art as its associate director. I 
came to a museum with a small but highly 
selective collection of Italian Renaissance, 
French Impressionist, as well as Barbizon 
paintings; with a staff severely depleted by 
the war; and most importantly with large 
reserves of funds set aside for the sole pur- 
pose of acquiring art. These reserves are 
still extensive, were then and are now, an- 
nually increased by generous income which 
can only be used for art acquisitions from 
the estates of the museum's founder and 
principal benefactor, Edward Drummond 
Libbey, and of his wife. 

As our museum at that time had no staff 
of curators I also assumed the role of chief 
curator, and was immediately challenged 
to prepare a study for the future growth of 
the museum's collections as well as the fu- 
ture development of its operations and staff. 
So stimulating was this challenge and so 
fascinating was its implementation that I 
am still at the same museum 28 years later, 
and now its director. 



10 




Hohbema . . . acquired 1967 



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French silver, 1783 ... acquired 1967 



There are fashions in art 

collecting whose ebb and flow 

greatly influences prices paid, 

often regardless of intrinsic 

quality. 



While collecting for the public is greatly 
different from private collecting, I have be- 
cause of these peculiar and happy circum- 
stances had the good fortune to play a major 
role in the growth of our museum's widely 
varied collections over a relatively long pe- 
riod of time. The collections have more than 
doubled in these years, and have expanded 
immensely in variety and depth. 

What would you have done if faced with 
a museum already almost 50 years old (as 
was ours when I joined it in 1946), with an 
established pattern of collecting ranging 
from ancient Egypt to contemporary art? 

Some might have changed completely the 
direction of collecting and specialized in one 
specific area — perhaps contemporary art. 
Some might have built on already existing 
strengths such as French Impressionism — 
and added more significant examples, then 
still available but at constantly rising prices. 

I chose to recommend another course: to 
expand and enrich the museum's existing 
general collections by acquiring art in areas 
which were at that time weak or non- 
existent in our museum, and which were 
neglected and out-of-fashion in the market. 
There are, as you know, fashions in art col- 
lecting whose ebb and flow greatly influence 
prices paid, often regardless of intrinsic 
quality. The only other criterion which 
seemed important to me — and here I was 
bolstered by the collecting of my predeces- 
sors — was to buy only art of highest quality, 
regardless of period or country. 

What were the areas chosen for special 
development at that time in the late 1940's? 



13 



I found we had no 17th century Dutch paint- 
ings, except for a Rembrandt and a Frans 
Hals which had come to the museum from 
the private collection of our benefactor Mr. 
Libbey. We had no 17th or 18th century 
French paintings, except for one Philippe de 
Champaigne. We had no 17th or 18th century 
Italian pictures except for two paintings by 
Tiepolo; few classical objects of any kind; 
no furniture of any period; practically no 
decorative arts, ceramics, bronzes or silver. 

We deliberately embarked upon a pro- 
gram of developing collections in these 
areas, buying as we could find good exam- 
ples, often waiting years before we could 
acquire sufficient examples to form a new 
gallery. We bought 17th century Dutch pic- 
tures, 17th and 18th century French and 
Italian pictures, as well as furniture and 
decorative arts of these and other periods. 
An interesting sidelight was that these ac- 
quisitions also lead to a series of important 
international exhibitions resulting from our 
interest and research. 

Splendid 17th century Dutch and Flemish 
paintings, which had commanded high 
prices at the beginning of our century, were 
unwanted in the 1940's and 50's when we 
began to buy them. They were too dark and 
sombre to eyes accustomed to the outdoor 
brilliance of Impressionism. 

French 17th century painting was so out- 
of-fashion at that time that only a handful 
of young French scholars seemed to remem- 
ber even the names of the great artists of the 
time of Louis XIV. The extraordinary exhibi- 
tion of 17th century French art, The 
Splendid Century, presented at the National 



14 




van de Capelle . . . acquired 1956 





Lemoyne . . . acquired 1964 



Gallery, the Metropolitan Museum and the 
Toledo Museum in 1960/61 revealed for the 
first time in our generation the significance 
of a long forgotten and neglected school of 
art. 

As for the 18th century French art, it has 
taken even longer to revive an interest in 
pictures still considered "candy box" by 
many. 

Eighteenth century Italian art which we 
and other museums began to collect at that 
time, later became the subject of an im- 
portant exhibition organized by the Chicago 
Art Institute, Minneapolis Institute of Arts 
and The Toledo Museum of Art in 1970/71. 

We have never tried to allocate funds for 
specific areas of the collection and were al- 
ways willing to create a temporary im- 
balance if the opportunity to acquire several 
significant objects of one kind occurred si- 
multaneously. We were, and still are, be- 
cause of the reserves available only for art, 
ready and willing to spend more than our 
annual income available for art when un- 
usual opportunities for important acquisi- 
tions occur. 

The concept of combining furniture and 
the decorative arts together with paintings 
in the museum's galleries, was introduced 
soon after my arrival in Toledo. We continue 
to believe that aesthetics and understanding 
are enhanced by presenting together the var- 
ious forms of arts. 

In fact, the presentation of art, the rela- 
tionship of pictures to each other and to 
objects in the same gallery has always 
seemed to me to be a means of education 



17 



The very nature of art . . . 
reassures people of the con- 
tinuity of human vision 
and thought . . . 



every bit as important as any lecture or 
printed guide. Art and the relationship of 
art objects can speak eloquently to us if we 
will only pause to observe. This opportunity 
to pause and observe at one's own pace is 
perhaps the greatest contribution which 
museums can make to visitors wishing to 
understand the culture of their own time 
as well as their heritage from the past. 

In these precarious and unsettled times 
in which we all live, there is a great hunger 
for a sense of lasting significance. We live 
among objects designed to be bought, used 
and thrown away without ever acquiring 
any sense of identity or relationship to 
ourselves. 

The very nature of art and of the mu- 
seums which preserve and present works of 
art reassures people of the continuity of 
human vision and thought and of the im- 
portance of their place in the vast stream 
of significant developments over centuries 
of time. This is why art must belong to all. 
It is not a mere commodity to be traded, 
hoarded and hidden in the vaults of some 
vast warehouse. 

A Mayan figure in Manhattan, a T'ang fig- 
ure in Toledo even though seemingly irrele- 
vant to our culture today, can tell us much 
about humanity and human relationships, 
may give us new and revealing insights into 
ourselves — perhaps more than would a less 
exotic and more familiar object from our 
own culture. These silent witnesses of the 
past can bridge the gap of time and place if 
we will let them. This is why it is important 
that some acceptable method of exchanging 
art from ancient cultures and far off lands 



18 



"Those who do not 

remember the past are 

condemned to repeat it" 

— George Santayana 



be developed. For the universal truths of all 
art should be shared and not confined. 

"Those who do not remember the past 
are condemned to repeat it" warned George 
Santayana the poet and philosopher. What 
better way to remember and to understand 
the past than to observe and learn from the 
great art of the past? Such art is often the 
only tangible expression left to us from a 
vanished culture or a far off country. 

To those who say, "Why is this old and 
strange art important? It is no longer rele- 
vant," I would remind them of Shake- 
speare's words in The Tempest, "What's past 
is prologue." To know the past helps us to 
understand the present — and may enable 
us to foretell the future. 



The cold gray years immediately follow- 
ing World War II were difficult for all; 
especially for Europe where the vast de- 
struction and displacements of war had to 
be rehabilitated slowly and painfully. 

While many of us felt that the economic 
and political upheavals following the war 
would result in a considerable increase in 
works of art placed on the market it took 
several years for this slow movement to be- 
come apparent. There were few works of 
art of quality immediately available. Indeed, 
the restitution of art looted during the war 
was so successful that over 95% of all art 
taken was returned to the countries of ori- 
gin. For the first time in history art was not 
considered a part of the spoils of war. Not 



19 



Great works of art have 
always been rare, difficult 
to find, and even more 
difficult to acquire. 



only was the looted art returned, but our 
country and others established clear legisla- 
tive policies against seizure of art from the 
defeated areas. 

The disorientation and disintegration of 
the art market during the war was clearly 
apparent to me through my work in OSS. 
Some art dealers had lost their lives or sim- 
ply disappeared; a few chose to collaborate 
with the enemy; many entered the armed 
services; some moved to different and more 
friendly countries, usually greatly benefiting 
their newly adopted lands. 

Many new friends were met in the art 
market in those days shortly after World 
War II when we began to implement the 
program of acquisitions I have earlier de- 
scribed. Without the cooperation, the in- 
terest, the professional skill and knowledge 
— yes, and the friendship of the many 
dealers in our country and abroad who have 
offered great works of art to us, we could 
not have formed the collections which now 
give Toledo's museum international recogni- 
tion for the high quality and distinction of 
its art. 

But this is not to say that the acquisition 
of great art is an easy one-way street, and 
that the museum director can, or ever could, 
sit in his office awaiting the visit of mer- 
chants eager to sell. At least this was not so 
at Toledo. It seemed to me in those earlier 
days that almost 9096 of the dealers visited 
were unfamiliar with our museum and our 
interests; and indifferent to our programs 
for growth. It was not always an easy task 
to persuade them to let me see their best 
objects — often put aside for a favored col- 



20 



y 







Guido Reni . . . acquired 1972 




Augsburg silver . . . acquired 1956 



Patience . . . discretion, integrity, 

and just plain good business 

judgment are all necessary . . . 

to acquire objects of 

more than average quality. 



lector or a larger museum. It took patience, 
time and often repeated visits before im- 
portant objects were willingly produced. 
Despite what some of my dealer-friends pro- 
fess, theirs is not exactly an outgoing exu- 
berant type of business — but rather the 
opposite. And who is to say that this reti- 
cence is not justified? They must agree with 
Omar Khayyam's comment on selling wine, 
"I often wonder what the vintners buy one- 
half so precious as the stuff they sell?" 

Patience, then, a willingness to go more 
than half-way, an ability to sense who might 
have the rare objects, discretion, integrity, 
and just plain good business judgment are 
all necessary to the museum director or col- 
lector who wants to acquire objects of more 
than average quality. Great works of art 
have always been rare, difficult to find, and 
even more difficult to acquire. 

The search for art has led me not only to 
the well-known centers of the world's art 
trade but also to some strange by-ways as 
well. I can still remember the thrill of seeing 
a great Dutch painting, which we later ac- 
quired, in a vault two stories below ground 
in Amsterdam, lit by a single bare lightbulb 
— and of finding a superb "lost" still-life by 
the 19th century American painter, William 
Harnett in a house in Toledo where it was 
owned by the son of a local druggist who 
had commissioned the picture in 1886. 

Some pictures have finally come to the 
museum years after they were first known 
to us through some of the great interna- 
tional art exhibitions held at our museum 
and others since 1945. For example, a Hob- 
bema and a van der Heyden, both owned 



23 



privately when shown in Toledo loan exhibi- 
tions of Dutch 17th century painting, were 
acquired years later. Often an expression of 
interest in certain pictures while visiting 
private collections has resulted many years 
later in an opportunity to buy. Patience is 
a necessary virtue for the buyer of art. But 
of course, like fishermen, we all remember 
with greatest clarity — and regret — the 
works of art which got away; the ones we 
weren't clever enough to find first. 

Perhaps our greatest advantage — rare in 
the museum field — has been Toledo's ability 
to reach a prompt decision when the op- 
portunity to buy presented itself. Our pur- 
chases are authorized by a small committee 
of trustees of which the director is chair- 
man. Prompt and full payment immediately 
after purchase has, I might add, been fur- 
ther encouragement to the seller. 

What then are the best defenses for the 
collector? To try to find that rare object 
hidden in a dusty attic or unrecognized in 
some private collection before the dealer 
does? Well yes — and occasionally it can be 
done. However, usually the dealer, whose 
livelihood depends on getting there first, 
who is able to spend more time on the 
search and who knows better his own terri- 
tory, wins this game. Usually the collector 
will do better to ask the dealer's coopera- 
tion in jointly seeking a privately held ob- 
ject he covets. He must also remember that 
the private owner today usually knows 
exactly what he has, and thanks to the vast 
amount of verbiage surrounding the rela- 
tively few sensational prices at public auc- 
tions, often has an inflated idea of values. 



24 





Preti . . . acquired 1961 




English cup, 1584 . . . acquired 1964. 



The best defense against 

high prices is to buy objects 

of quality in areas out-of- 

fashion. 



. 



For the museum certainly and for the 
private collector in many instances, the best 
and most interesting defense against high 
prices is to buy objects of quality in areas 
out-of-fashion. The law of supply and de- 
mand is compounded in the art world where 
scarcity is the multiplying factor. If every- 
one wants to own French Impressionist art 
for example, then certainly if you have the 
funds available and want the instant ad- 
miring acclaim of your friends, you too must 
buy French Impressionism. But don't ex- 
pect to find a bargain — and don't expect 
that your art necessarily will be a good in- 
vestment, although it may be if of great 
enough quality. 

If however you had bought French Im- 
pressionism when everyone wanted to own 
Barbizon pictures, then your heirs would 
today indeed consider you wise, thoughtful 
and generous! Museums especially can bene- 
fit from using their always limited acquisi- 
tion funds for out-of-fashion purchases. For 
museums like the Church are enduring 
institutions and can afford to wait. Some 
art, like wine, can best be bought and laid 
down for years until changing taste brings 
popular understanding — and acclaim. Other 
art may be bought for more immediate pop- 
ularity if you are willing to pay the higher 
price of greater competition. 

The French Impressionist paintings which 
my predecessors wisely bought for Toledo 
in the 20's and early 30's made it unneces- 
sary for me to enter that ever-rising market 
in the 50's and 60's. What I have been able 
to buy at reasonable prices, my successors 
will not have to compete for in tomorrow's 



27 



Size and subject matter play 
important parts in popular 
values for art. 



market. And so long as the objects acquired 
are among the finest of their kind whatever 
their period, they will continue to contribute 
to the knowledge and satisfaction of all 
those who wish to enjoy them during their 
visits to the museum. 

The areas of collecting yet neglected are 
perhaps fewer than they were 25 years ago. 
But would it not be worthwhile still to seek 
important examples of early and mid-19th 
century European painting? Then, how 
many are collecting ancient glass today? 
And what about American art of the 1920's 
and 30's? Should some collectors or mu- 
seums turn again to a reexamination of these 
areas? What other special areas? Well, you 
must have the wit and imagination to find 
these for yourselves! 

If we agree that a sheep-like, follow-the- 
leader attitude is not the best way to collect 
art, what other leverage do we have in to- 
day's competitive art market? 

Since the early 1950's I have traveled ex- 
tensively in this country and abroad in 
search of art for our museum. Why? First, of 
course, because it was necessary to establish 
new sources of supply (collectors and deal- 
ers) friendly and sympathetic to our mu- 
seum's special needs. However, secondly, it 
is quite apparent that even in these days of 
instant communication there are many great 
works of art unpopular and almost un- 
known in one country which are acceptable 
and more valuable in another. 

Dealers have always known this and are 
constantly buying objects in one market for 
export to another market where a profit can 



28 



There is today much broader 

and certainly stronger 

competition for any great 

work of art. 



be turned. It has, for instance, amused more 
than one English dealer to tell me that the 
object I had just bought in London had been 
recently exported from New York where I 
might have had it for a lesser amount! 

However, this can be reversed to the col- 
lector's advantage. We have bought several 
fine American 19th century paintings in Eng- 
land where they were considered simply 
provincial, but which to us were part of our 
own cultural heritage and therefore valua- 
ble. A rare piece of American glass, one of 
only ten known authentic Amelung presenta- 
tion goblets was acquired for Toledo's 
famous glass collection from a Dutch dealer 
who (rightly from his viewpoint) con- 
sidered it a rather poor example of 19th 
century glass of unknown origin. We have 
bought important German paintings in Italy 
where they were not very much admired, 
French paintings in Tangiers, English Eliza- 
bethan oak furniture in New York. 

Size and subject matter play important 
parts in popular values. Large pictures are 
less desirable in a country of small houses 
(such as Holland); religious subjects, espe- 
cially martyrdoms, are unpopular in Protes- 
tant countries and with most private 
collectors. But museums which present the 
historic past in some logical sequence can 
often benefit from such popular indiffer- 
ence — as can certain private collectors. 

What about the art market today? Many 
of the opportunities and advantages avail- 
able 25 years ago are now gone. There is 
much broader and certainly stronger com- 
petition for any great work of art. There are 
the great moral, ethical and legal questions 



29 



The extraordinary interest in 
contemporary art . . . is 
where . . . the dramatic rise 
in art as investment has 
been most pronounced. 



regarding export and import regulations for 
cultural property which must be resolved in 
the near future. There is the extraordinary 
interest in contemporary art — particularly 
the painters and sculptors of New York. 
Here is where the real growth of the last 
decades has been — or to put it another way, 
where the speculative interest and the dra- 
matic rise in art as investment has been 
most pronounced. This is to be regretted, 
for it has clouded to some extent the appre- 
ciation and understanding of the very real 
creative forces of the artists involved. If we 
are to understand our times — and the future 
— we must understand what contemporary 
artists are saying to us — whether or not they 
themselves profess that they have no mes- 
sage to give. 

While I have also been active in the mar- 
ket for contemporary art as the principal 
professional advisor to one of our large 
corporate collections of modern art, I feel 
this market is so different from any other 
market for art, antiques, or other artifacts 
that it could not adequately be discussed in 
the limited time available. 

In closing I would like to leave with you 
Ten Rules for Successful Collecting, based 
on my own experience and belief. I hope 
they will be of some value to those inter- 
ested in collecting for their own pleasure. 



30 



TEN RULES FOR 
SUCCESSFUL COLLECTING 



1. Quality comes first: 

Buy the best you can afford. Bet- 
ter to own one object of great quality 
than ten average objects. Don't for- 
get Thoreau's aphorism, "All good 
things are cheap; all bad are very 
dear." 

2. Don't buy art as investment: 

Increased value may be an indirect 
benefit of owning art, but should 
never be a primary requisite. There 
are other better investment vehicles 
over the long run. 

3. Know your museums: 

Develop your eye for quality by 
frequent visits to the world's highly 
selective museums (examples: Frick 
Collection, New York; Wallace Col- 
lection and National Gallery of Art, 
London; Mauritshuis, The Hague). 
Become acquainted with museum 
curators. They are usually helpful 
and generous in sharing their knowl- 
edge. Their objective advice is a pub- 
lic service and free for the asking. 

4. Know your sources: 

Become acquainted with the great 
collectors in your field of interest. 
Visit often and consult the leading 
dealers and auction house special- 
ists. Every good dealer is enthusias- 
tic and knowledgeable, and usually 
willing to share his knowledge with 
collectors. 






31 



5. Observe good business 

practices: 

Like that of any other trade, the 
art market is made up of many legiti- 
mate dealers; but there are also a 
few who are unknowing or dis- 
honest. Do business only with recog- 
nized dealers. Each work of art is a 
unique object on which a legitimate 
dealer places a fair value. It seldom 
pays to bargain for unique objects. 
It seldom pays to buy in install- 
ments. Demand from the seller a 
complete bill of sale clearly de- 
scribing the object, its price, its 
provenance and history, as well as 
a signed statement from the seller 
attesting his ownership of the object 
and that, if applicable, the object 
has been legitimately exported from 
its country of origin and legally im- 
ported into the United States. 

6. Be curious: 

Study, observe, travel constantly. 
Read all you can of the scholarly 
books in your field of interest, read 
the important international art pe- 
riodicals, including the advertise- 
ments as well as the editorial 
content; consult auction prices but 
don't take them too literally. Knowl- 
edge, curiosity, enthusiasm and 
study are all invaluable assets to the 
serious collector. 

7. Be courageous: 

Have the courage of your convic- 
tions. Be bold in your buying. You 
may, and probably will, make some 
mistakes, but every great collector 
before you also has. To buy only the 
"safe" object is the easiest avenue 
to a boring collection. Buy against 
the market where possible. 



32 



8. Be careful: 

Assure yourself of the condition 
of the work of art before buying. It 
is better to buy a fine picture in ex- 
cellent condition by a little-known 
artist than to buy a ruined picture 
by a well-known artist. Use available 
scientific methods to examine art 
before buying. However, your own 
eye and judgment must make the 
ultimate decision. 

9. Don't be a cynic: 

Remember Oscar Wilde's epigram, 
"A cynic is a man who knows the 
price of everything and the value of 
nothing." Each work of art is a 
unique object, a creative effort by a 
human being subject, as we all are, 
to daily variations. Therefore, auc- 
tion prices or other periodic market 
evaluations can be deceptive. Unlike 
two shares of General Motors' stock 
which sell for identical prices, two 
etchings by Rembrandt can and 
should vary greatly in price because 
of concept, condition and the vary- 
ing quality of the original printing. 
Buy what you like, but don't buy for 
price alone. 

10. "Caveat Emptor" means you: 
The old Latin phrase, "Let the 
buyer beware" should never be for- 
gotten. The complete phrase is, "Let 
the buyer beware because he should 
not be ignorant of the property he 
is buying." 

Otto Wittmann, Director 
The Toledo Museum of Art 



33 



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